Organizers believe the Saturn Cycling Classic has the potential to be the race that brings cycling back in the public eye, as in the days of Colorado's Coors International and Red Zinger Cycling classics.
Despite the waning interest, there are those who remember the glory days of American road racing.
Mo Siegel, founder of Celestial Seasonings, remembers 30,000 people packed in North Boulder Park to watch the final stage of the Red Zinger/Coors Classic in the 1970s and '80s.
Len Pettyjohn, who coached many of the United States' best cyclists, remembers how races in the same era served as a proving ground for young cyclists like Greg Lemond, Ron Kiefel and Davis Phinney.
Former Coors Classic race director Michael Aisner recalls when CBS first covered cycling due to the success of races like the Red Zinger/Coors.
Fortunately for cycling enthusiasts these bastions of America's rich road bicycling history share two things in common a desire to see the sport flourish again and a willingness to do what it takes to make this happen.
The first step in reviving the renaissance days of cycling's past is to create a race so epic, parts of it might frighten the uninformed viewer.
This race would include all the elements that would pique the interest of spectators: 140 miles in length, nearly 14,000 feet of accumulated climbing, seven major mountain climbs, steep descents with no guardrails, dirt roads and brutal crosswinds.
In addition to the torturous course and environmental elements, the race would have to include the top names in American road cycling today.
This race is the Saturn Cycling Classic, and the peloton will depart from Boulder and arrive in Breckenridge on August 11.
Fashioned in the spirit of European bicycle racing, the Saturn Cycling Classic, in its second year, is unlike any other race in this country. Some in the cycling community have even expressed a belief that the race is so rough that it is more of a novelty than a race to be considered as one of the primary cycling events in the country.
The inaugural race in 2000 lived up to its billing as a brutal event with huge temperature fluctuations and driving rain as well as the grueling course, limiting the total number of finishers to just 20 out of a starting group of 120.
The race is so tough it lead Phinney, a former Olympian and the first American to win a road stage in the Tour de France, to speculate on how he would have reacted if he had to race such a course during his professional career.
"There would have been no joy in Phinneyville," the Boulder resident said.
"If this had been the race that had started instead of the Red Zinger and become really popular I would have done something else probably," said Phinney.
However, as last year's winner Mercury Viatel's Scott Moninger knows, to the victor go the spoils.
The prize list is at $75,000 and the winner of the Men's Race receives a 2002 Saturn VUE package.
Moninger shocked some observers last year when he switched from a road bike to a mountain bike at the top of Guanella Pass.
Moninger, who finished the race in seven hours, 17 minutes, 34 seconds, went on to say that the switch didn't make him any faster it just made the ride smoother.
Moninger's move and the reaction to it highlighted the dichotomy of the sport. Mountain bikers vs. road bikers has long been an issue in the sport.
Saturn race director Len Pettyjohn expressed displeasure at the fact that the sport has become so fragmented. Pettyjohn knows, however, as do others anticipating this year's race, that Moninger's move last year is certain to be emulated in 2001.
"This is the first race that's ever become a hybrid of both types of racers," Aisner said.
Aisner, who is now involved in the race through a consulting role with Saturn, said of the difficulty of the race: "You throw the party and those who want to attend do."
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|2001 Men's Race Roster|
| Mercury |
1 Moninger, Scott USA
2 Frischkorn, Thomas USA
3 Horner, Chris USA
4 Landis, Floyd USA
5 Wherry, Chris USA
6 Zajicek, Phil USA
Saturn Cycling Team
Handle Bar & Grill
Navigators Cycling Team
Zaxby's Cycling Team
| Jamba Juice |
101 Applegate, Andy USA
102 Ellis, Brian USA
103 Hludzinski, Brian USA
104 LeMaitre, Brand USA
105 McGee, Chris USA
106 Schwartz, Eric USA
107 Siciliano, Joby USA
108 Starr, Ryan USA
109 Tobin, Michael USA
110 Vestal, Zachery USA
Trek/VW, New Belgium Beer
Excel Sports Boulder
Rio Grande/Monsoon Racing
Vitamin Cottage/Morgal Bismark
* Indicates an athlete under 23 years of age; someone to watch as a rising star in the sport.